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Tue, 04/17/2018 - 13:10

Unions, health activists push NS to outlaw pay-for-plasma

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PAYING FOR PLASMA MAKES JASON MCLEAN SEE RED. The president of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union (NSGEU) joined with healthcare activists at an April 10 news conference to make that perfectly clear.

Kat Lanteigne and Jason MacLean want province to outlaw pay-for-plasma

PAYING FOR PLASMA MAKES JASON MCLEAN SEE RED. The president of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union (NSGEU) joined with healthcare activists at an April 10 news conference to make that perfectly clear.

NSGEU, the Nova Scotia Health Coalition and Bloodwatch, an organization that advocates for a safe, voluntary, public blood system in Canada called on the province to reject any thought of allowing a pay-for-plasma company to set up in Nova Scotia.

Paying for blood donations is already illegal in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. The pay-for-plasma company, Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR), has recently registered to lobby the government to allow it to operate in Nova Scotia.

Healthcare activists are against this for many reasons: number one is the fact that it would serve no useful purpose.

They point out it won’t improve healthcare for Nova Scotians. It might even make things worse—as it did in Saskatchewan. Data from Canadian Blood Services show that voluntary blood donations in Saskatchewan dropped significantly following the opening of a CPR operation there in 2014.

A World Health Organization document states that “[t]he highest prevalence of transfusion-transmissible infections is generally found among paid or commercial donors.”

The downside to allowing pay-for-plasma also includes:

  • undermining the not-for-profit bedrock principle of Medicare,
  • undermining the possibility of Canada achieving self-sufficiency in blood products
  • increasing the risk of exposing Canadians to unknown blood-borne diseases
  • exploiting the poor

“There is nothing good to come out of a private plasma broker to set up in Nova Scotia. It does not serve patients, and it does not serve people who need plasma anywhere in Canada,” said Kat Lanteigne, executive director of Bloodwatch.

Money for blood killed 8,000 of us

A lot of bad blood got into our blood collection system in the early ‘80s. It came from paid donors in Haiti and American prisons and skid rows infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C that went undetected. The Krever Inquiry into how that happened estimated the bad blood killed 8,000 Canadians and infected more than 20,000 of us with AIDS and Hepatitis C

Krever concluded one of the best ways to keep our blood supply system safe was to never pay people for giving blood.

He also proposed that we commit ourselves to consider blood a public resource and  keep access to blood and blood products free and universal.

“We need legislation to protect public blood in Canada. A ban on the private sale of plasma and blood in Canada is absolutely needed, so that justice Horace Krever’s recommendations are upheld,” says Jason MacLean.

Unpaid and voluntary is exactly the business model of the Canadian Blood Services (CBS), the not for profit organization that took over blood collection in Canada in 1998 following the Krever Inquiry.

CBS relies on a team of 4,300 staff and 17,000 volunteers to operate 36 permanent collection sites, two bloodmobiles, eight OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network field sites and more than 22,000 donor clinics annually.

All funding for CBS comes from the provincial and territorial ministries of health, which appoint directors to its board. Its functions are regulated federally by Health Canada

Using blood from the poor to get rich

It is no secret that people most ready to sell their blood are not usually the healthiest. One of the three proposed collection sites CPR proposed to open in 2013 was beside a men’s mission in Toronto, while another was to be next to methadone clinic in Hamilton.

CPR pays blood donors with a $25 Visa gift certificate. Donors are encouraged to give often: “Super Hero Rewards” members qualify for monthly draws; “silver” and “gold” donors are eligible for “prizes valued at over $2,000.

CPR claims their pay-for-plasma model will help Canada achieve blood products self-sufficiency. There is no evidence to support that claim.

The plasma that CPR collects will not remain in Canada and will not be purchased by Canadian Blood Services.

Instead it will be sold on the $11 billion plasma world market, likely to the United States, where it will be mixed in with large pools of plasma from other paid donors, to be processed into high-priced blood products. In the end there will be no “Canadian” plasma product and no greater self-sufficiency in plasma products.

Canada will still have to import 83% of its plasma-based drugs until Canadian Blood Services expands its voluntary plasma collection sites to increase supply of plasma.

In January 2017, CBS announced a seven-year, $855-million strategy to increase Canada’s plasma self-sufficiency from 17 percent to 50 percent; it would require as many as 40 new plasma collection sites collecting more than 600,000 litres of plasma per year by 2024 and “upwards of 144,000 new plasma donors” annually.

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